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Facebook app developers may get access to personal phone numbers

A woman types in her password to enter Facebook using an app on her iPhone.

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Steve Chiotakis: This week, Facebook sent a letter to two powerful Congressman -- Democrat Ed Markey and Republican Joe Barton -- telling them the social network's plans for sharing users' information, like phone numbers, with third party applications, is still a go. But privacy groups and some lawmakers continue to cry foul.

Marketplace Tech Report host John Moe is with us to begin a regular feature we'll do every couple of weeks. Good morning John.

John Moe: Hey Steve.

Chiotakis: So Facebook says it's going to share my phone number with advertisers? How's that going to work?

Moe: It would work if you gave it permission to do so; it wouldn't happen automatically. But it's one of these things where if you want to play one of these games on Facebook, take a quiz to see which "Battlestar Galactica" character you are -- those apps could ask you for that data in order to work. And this feature was actually active briefly in mid-January, and it caused a big stink, so Faceboook yanked it, and now they're working on making that permission more clear before you give it.

Chiotakis: It sounds like a breach of privacy though, John, am I wrong about that?

Moe: You know you volunteer the information. You are giving it over willfully. The question is, will they be saying, 'Hey play this awesome game,' in huge type, but then 'Give us all your data' in tiny type, and whether or not that's deceptive.

Chiotakis: You think people could get confused by this and maybe give the information and not really know it?

Moe: That's really what it comes down to, is how clear those practices are. And the lawmakers are also concerned about kids. You know, you can join Facebook at a very early age, age 13, so it's a question of, do people know what they're sharing before they go ahead and share it?

Chiotakis: Is there something sinister about this, do you think, John, or is this just another way to scrutinize Facebook's privacy policy?

Moe: I think it's kind of more innocent than most Facebook policies and also more dangerous at the same time. Because you do opt-in. The dangerous part is that more of your data is being collected. It's not just your phone number and your address you've got to think about; it's those things being associated with the rest of your profile, that those app developers can sell, because the companies they sell it to can then come to me and pitch me things that I like. Seattle Mariners merchandise and Halo games, stuff that I'm into. Maybe for you that's valuable; maybe somebody wants that. I really don't. But more than anything, Steve, it's a sign of the responsibility that comes with Facebook. It's an incredibly powerful tool. But as Spider-Man teaches us, Steve, with great power comes great responsibility.

Chiotakis: Marketplace Tech Report host John Moe. John, thanks.

Moe: Thanks Steve.

About the author

John Moe is the host of Marketplace Tech Report, where he provides an insightful overview of the latest tech news.

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